Cover Image: Ander & Santi Were Here

Ander & Santi Were Here

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

What an amazingly well written book. The story was light hearted and wholesome but also extremely heavy and giving you a lot to think about? I know it’s a contradiction but the author is so good they just made it feel that way. I loved all the queer and Latinx rep and I found incredibly well done how they got a language like Spanish that is intrinsically a gender based language and made it gender neutral to be respectful to the non binary character and even in a Latinx family no one had an issue adapting to it. As a latina it really warmed my heart because I know how closed minded our community can be.
This book made me laugh (I truly love Ander), and cry (Santi needs to be protected with the biggest tightest hug), and… fuck ICE.
Was this review helpful?
To date, I believe Aristotle and Dante discover the Secrets of the Universe to be one of the most important and fundamental cornerstone of not only my reading journey, but of my adolescence. So, whenever I hear something compared to Aristotle and Dante, I always give it a reluctant try. Thankfully, Ander & Santi Were Here lived up to every expectation and blew me away!

Not only did I find the characters incredible diverse, with it's genuine Latinx and queer representation, but the way that it was presented was incredibly vivid! It's easy to fall into the trap of writing a non-binary character that is sassy and a diva, but I found Ander to be so rich in their artistry and growth that I could tell the author held great respect for Under. And Santi was a tragic character that also had so much joy to him!

While the romance felt a little insta-lovey, I will continue to root for the romance of Ander & Santi, as well as keep Jonny Garza Villa on my author radar moving forward!
Was this review helpful?
I am still SOBBING. This was brutal and this was beautiful. The love story had me from the beginning. If you loved Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the Universe, you will love this. Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for the opportunity to listen in exchange for a review!
Was this review helpful?
San Antonio has always been home for Ander. It is the place they were born and raised, where they have spent days helping in their family’s taqueria, and the place that inspires their art. In the gap year Ander takes between high school and college, their family fires them to force them to focus on preparing for college. But that focus is broken as soon as Ander meets the new waiter, Santi. Santi and Ander fall for each other almost immediately and become inseparable. But when ICE comes looking for Santi, Ander begins to learn how fragile life, love, and home really can be. It begins to feel like Ander and Santi against the world.

I’m not sure I have the right words to accurately convey all of the feelings I have about this book. It is beautiful yet devastating, heart breaking yet full of hope. It is truly such a powerful story of young love. Jonny Garza Villa did a phenomenal job writing this story - the first part really brought you into their world. The taqueria, the murals, the characters - they all felt real and were so easy to imagine. In some ways this part of their story was monotonous and normal in the sense of it being a similar routine day after day, yet you could feel the connection growing as you felt a small undercurrent of tension begin to build. 

But then he gets you in the second half of the book. That small spark ignites and it’s impossible to stop the drama from growing and spreading like wildfire. I had a sense of what was coming and wanted to stop it, but couldn’t, and when it did, it ripped my heart out. (Luckily by the end it was put back together again). There is so much power behind this book and the reality and messiness it depicts. Truly an incredible story.
Avi Roque did a phenomenal job with the narration of the audiobook.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for the advance copies.
Was this review helpful?
This was such a beautiful and tender coming of age LGBTQIA story! Such a heartbreaking yet beautiful love story.
Was this review helpful?
Audiobook Review:
Overall – 4
Performance – 5
Story – 3

I absolutely loved the audio performance and my rating is based mostly on that fact.

This is the first audiobook I’ve listened to performed by Avi Roque and I thought it was quite wonderful.  If I had read this story with my eyes I would have been frustrated because I wouldn’t know the correct pronunciation of a lot of the words.  That is a big reason why I love audiobooks, especially ones with words in a language other than English.

I was surprised by all of the sexual content in a book that was supposed to be a YA novel.  I am way, way, way beyond my teen years and I know things have changed, but as much as I like spicy novels, I thought it was a bit too much for a YA story.

A review copy of the audiobook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley but this did not influence my opinion or rating of the book.
Was this review helpful?
A bit back and forth on how I feel about this one, whereas, there are things I loved the things I didn't feel outweigh them, so, I'll settle for a three star.

Ander is a queer Mexican artist in the middle of a gap year when he meets Santiago. Now firstly, I loved the representation. Reading about young proud queer characters always makes me happy, especially Hispanic ones (being Hispanic myself). I loved the moments delving into Mexican culture, even the hardships were the most interesting aspects of the novel.

On a very personal note, the humor in this... It's very <i>now</i>. I'm not one to roll my eyes at pop-culture references because I get it, but the writing feels so current and cringy. I couldn't bare it. While the banter is cute and fun and does have a place in characterization, it goes on for too long, and I found myself bored waiting for the plot to happen. The book didn't sink its teeth into me with the plot or pacing, I neither cared for the romance aspected, unfortunately. A lot of YA relies on insta love/lust, I completely get why but I'm over it.

With that being said, here's the thing... if you want something simple to read that has loads of fluff and banter, that's an easy-going plot with maybe one or two difficult scenes that get resolved easily. If you want nonbinary Latine rep- then, yes! This is perfect. Sometimes it's fun to read about a world where everything just works out, and that's cool. I, however, want my characters to be flawed. I don't want THAT ending.

I do praise Jonny Garza Villa for writing this story. For writing these characters because despite my complaints, these characters deserve to be written, and I hope this opens the door for more stories like this.

About the audiobook:
I did really like Avi Roque's performance as Ander, his voice suited Ander's cadence and helped him feel realistic. His voice reminded me so much of Bretmen Rock- so if you enjoy him, you'll like the audiobook.
Was this review helpful?
Enjoyed the audiobook, but will only purchase the book for my library. This book educated me about issues in the US that I have little knowledge of, so I appreciated that. The relationship between Ander and Santi was believable and super cute (not sickeningly so) and it was overall a good read.
Was this review helpful?
I did not expect this book to be so emotional and deeply moving going into it, but it is one of the most beautiful depictions of young love I have ever read. Ander lives in San Antonio, Texas with their family. Ander works at the family taquería and also works as a muralist. They are set to go to art school in Chicago, but ultimately decide to take a gap year. Ander’s family “fires” them from the restaurant to make sure they focus on their art, which is what Ander sets out to do. Until they meet Santiago, the new waiter at the restaurant.

Ander and Santiago, also knows as Santi, fall deeply in love. Santi inspires Ander’s dreams in art and Ander works to help Santi feel like he is finally at home. The book is filled with intense passion, diverse representation and a sprinkle of fear. Fear because Santi is in the United States without documentation. And ICE agents know. And are targeting him.

I listened to the audio version and I highly recommend it. The entire book is told from Ander’s POV and the narrator made me feel like I was in the same room as Ander. The way the narrator made me feel Ander’s pain as intensely as their passion was incredible. This is one of those books that I would recommend everyone read because you learn so much about important issues in the context of a love story at the core.
Was this review helpful?
dnf @ 30%
I really wanted to like this, but unfortunately I couldn’t stand the narrator. I’m sure there are people who would really love and appreciate this book, but ultimately, it wasn’t for me.
Was this review helpful?
Sincere thanks to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for the *FREE* review copy! 

Now, I enjoyed a LOT about this book. Let’s start there. 

I loved: 

This book is so queer! Nonbinary, bisexual, gray ace and trans rep! 

A beautiful, sincere, mutually respectful, fun & steamy romance between our nonbinary MC, Ander and his wonderful, male love interest, Santi. 

Excellent narration. 

All the wonderful, untranslated Spanish! It was especially great to hear on the audio. 

Please note, I know a mix of school and various dialects of authentic Spanish with slang etc. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I am proficiently bilingual, but I’m getting back there. If you don’t speak any Spanish, or you speak very little school Spanish, you *will* miss out if you aren’t willing to do some googling.

A favorite line: “…the type of white women who only like their margaritas with sugar on the rim and think they can empathize with Brown people because they read American Dirt.”

I adored Ander’s family and friend group and all the support they had. 

I thought the unflinching portrayal of ICE and their cruelty was so necessary (unlike ICE itself). 

This book is bursting with family, food, art, music, and at least one literary reference that will hit home with a lot of Bookstas. You’ll get HUNGRY and maybe want to blast some reggaeton.

Ander finding his artist’s voice, his boundaries and calling out micro and macro aggressions and racism…

What I didn’t like:

I know Santi wasn’t our MC, but I wish the stories around his mother and sister weren’t so scant.


It's 2023, ffs. Can we STOP making jokes/snide comments about incest? As a survivor, it always pulls me out of a story and taints the book. I didn't appreciate the wholly unnecessary crack about how incest happens to “some whites in Alabama and the royals”. Hurtful stereotypes don’t help any of us…

*Please* make a note of this, editors etc. at: Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio and anyone else who can take that bit out of future printings and edit them out before publication/recording in the future. 

Despite that, I still managed to love the book and each character. I’m still rooting for them. 

⚠️CW/TWs: The aforementioned snide comment/joke about incest, racism, xenophobia, deportation, ICE, government/police brutality, murder, kidnapping, human trafficking, drugs, alcohol, underage drinking, death of a parent, grief, strong language, graphic sexual content…
Was this review helpful?
Ander has decided to wait a year before going to college to figure what their art should be like, and that year will change their entire life. Turns out Ander's family doesn't want them to work the family's restaurant anymore so that they truly focus on art. And that's when Santi enters. He is hired in their stead and the two begin a friendship that turns into something else but it's not just all sunshine and rainbows as the two have to fight against more than anyone ever should.

I absolutely loved this book. It was emotional and impactful and captivating. I fell for Ander immediately, they were smart and dumb and flawed in the best way. I laughed, I cried, I loved this from beginning to end. I enjoyed the setting and the family relationships and the romance between Ander and Santi as well as all the friendships we got to witness. I also had a great time following Ander's artistic choices and career choices.
A big part of this book is also about immigration and how ICE shouldn't exist and it was as powerful as it was enraging. It made me so angry and I cried some. To me, that's one of the many reasons everyone should read this book. Truly a must read.
I also truly enjoy Jonny Garza Villa's writing and this second book was just as amazing as their first. I cannot wait for more.
Was this review helpful?
Ander is a gifted 19 year old artist who lives with their parents and works at the family's restaurant. Ander has painted murals throughout the town and meets Santiago (Santi), who admires Ander's art and is a new employee at the restaurant.
Ander and Santi are sweet and tender and so gentle with each other's feelings. They are both so sure of themselves and have such a durable love between them and also with those around them. Santi's undocumented status gives us a view of the daily dangers and concerns he faces. I was delighted by the interactions with Anders' parents and grandmother, and the way that their community embraces all of its people.

Without my years of Spanish in school, work, and community, I'd have been a bit lost from time to time. I was able to engage well with this book, and I hope that readers enjoy the dialogue, even if they have to google parts :)

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing me an audio ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This book read how the Spanish language feels - lush, sensual, fun, and exciting, Between the writing style of Johnny Garza Villa and narrator Avi Roque this was just perfection. I will admit to struggling through the first 15% just because of my reading mood - it was good but nothing was happening. The first section is very character focused which is usually my jam so if you love that then it's consistency throughout this book will suck you right in. Some of the plot points hit hard and fast and then immediately got resolved so the pacing feels very off in the second half of the book and yet....this feels no less poignant and perfect as a whole. This would be pretty great for fans of All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir or even A Very Large Expanse of the Sea by Tahereh Mafi.. Go into this one with an open mind and an open heart and be prepared to get swept away.

-Audiobook note: I will read ANYTHING Avi Roque is allowed to narrate.
Was this review helpful?
I thought Ander & Santi Were Here was going to be a pretty heavy read because I knew it dealt with undocumented immigrants. I was pleasantly surprised to find that although Jonny Garza Villa handles the topic seriously and with care, this book is really a very adorable YA romance. It was refreshing to read a romance where the drama was coming from outside sources and the characters could just be in love without causing each other pain. No third act break ups or big miscommunication drama! I love that this book features a nonbinary artist as the main character as well. It was really nice to see Ander grappling with being both nonbinary and Mexican and how both of those identities affected their art and relationship with their Mexican heritage. I would absolutely recommend this one! It was just as beautiful as the cover.
Was this review helpful?
Rep: mexian american NB MC, male mexican queer LI, lots of queer SC (even a grayace one is mentioned, my heart!)

If you like slice of life books with very up to date, real life (political) issues this is perfect for you.
Ander meets Santi in his families restaurant where he works as a waiter and ofc they fall head over heels.
It’s a super slow burn and I thought they were really cute together. I loved the mexican meets american culture, the food, the art and the banter between Ander and his friends and chaotic family.
From the blurb I thought this would be a very sad, heart wrenching story, but overall it was for the most parts really very fun and heartwarming! The main focus lays on the wholesome romance and the family and friends.

It’s a typical YA story, about finding your way in life, figure out what and who you want to be. But also about finding your people and finding people who feel like home.
But there is also Santis story, living in America as a young, undocumented immigrant, which is a very hard, but also a real life problem many people have to face. Not being able to live a save life in your birth country, but also not being able to life a free life somewhere else, constantly living in fear.
I loved how Ander and Santi both became each others save houses and how nothing could keep them apart.
I wish there would have been a little more info honestly, because as a non American I personally don’t know a lot of details about immigration politics there (yes, I know how google works thank you). 
For me the ending was a little too sudden and quickly handled, when 70% of the book really was more slice of life and only the last few chapters were about Santi alone.

All in all it was an important and relevant story that anyone should and could read and enjoy. I personally don’t love reading sad and heartbreaking storys, because they always drag me into a spiral. This one didn’t do that at all. It remained a wholesome and heartwarming story throughout the end, while also succeeding in talking about important political issues. Really loved that.
Was this review helpful?
This is a spectacular story of queer brown love. This book offers so much wonderful diversity of representation in its characters, highlighting the injustices of our modern immigrant policies and the rippling effect such policies have on communities like Ander and Santi’s. This books is such a beautiful ode to modern love and what love can overcome.
Was this review helpful?
This book was beautifully well done! I connected so well with the characters, from their pain and despair, to their love and hilarious banter. Ander is the person we all need in a book. They’re such a powerhouse of love and talent, as well as having one of the sharpest wits and mouths I’ve seen in a long time! Santi was just the sweetest boy there’s ever been. I loved them individually, but together, it was like the sun came from behind the clouds and boldly said it would shine forever. 
There was a ton of Spanish dialogue in the story, and although I speak none of the language, save from being able to order a beer and count to 5, I was not lost to the words. Each piece of Spanish was so contextual, it was so easy to follow along. Also, I absolutely loved being able to pick up on the non binary use of some commonly gendered terms. 
I laughed, I cried, I blushed, and I raged. There were so many emotions throughout the book, and each new one just added to the overall experience. Fabulous story, A+ narration, an absolute win all around.
Was this review helpful?
Every single star for this delightfully queer contemporary Latinx story full of banter, sweet love, family and pushes back against ICE, deportation, colonization. From start to finish, I was caught up in this story and weeks later, it still has a grip on me.
Was this review helpful?
This was a stunning story! Ander and Santi were so real and Ander's Mexican American family was depicted perfectly. The story had a lot: the sweet romance, friendships, the struggles of being undocumented, the pressure for teens to make big decisions at such a young and inexperienced age, the creation of art and all that goes into it, issues faced by nonbinary and queer people, so many supportive characters, plus a lot of really funny moments! I feel like I learned a lot while being completely captivated by the story. The narrator, Avi Roque, was outstanding! They couldn't have done a better job with the characters and bringing the story to life. I had already purchased the print book for my library, but we'll definitely get the audio as well. Highly recommended! Special thanks to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for the advanced review copy.
Was this review helpful?